The Oakland Raiders came into Green Bay with the daunting task of trying to stop the undefeated Packers. The Raiders left Green Bay after a game that looked like their high school JV squad took a licking from the varsity team.
If it's possible, the game looked worse than the final score of 46-16 indicated.
Oakland (7-6) now finds themselves in a terribly deplorable position of being in second place in the AFC West. They have lost their two-game lead over the Denver Broncos (8-5), who won their sixth game in a row and are now atop the division.
Meanwhile, the incessantly disappointing San Diego Chargers (6-7) have found some bolt of energy, having won two consecutive games, and now trail the Raiders by a single game.
An unenviable position for sure.
And yet, despite one of the ugliest stretches of the season, one that includes a disturbing arrest of their starting linebacker and now a 30-point demolition at the hands of Green Bay, the Raiders must look at the silver (and black) lining—it could be worse.
The Raiders' roster is currently an infirmary packed with ailing players.
The fact that Oakland has not been at full health has hobbled the offense, as running back Darren McFadden, wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore and quarterback Jason Campbell have each missed the several games with various injuries.
And though losing McFadden meant the Raiders were without the then-rushing leader of the AFC, Oakland actually misses their quarterback more. After all, with Campbell leading the team, the Raiders were 4-2.
Since Campbell's collarbone fracture in Week 6, Oakland is 3-4.
But again, it could be worse.
Campbell was replaced in the starting lineup by backup Kyle Boller. But it was very quickly realized that Boller was not going to be the one to steer the Raiders to the postseason, the team's lofty aspiration under bold prognosticating first-year head coach Hue Jackson.
Given the rejuvenated excitement surrounding the organization, Jackson knew he had to make a drastic change at the quarterback position in order to reinforce the team's—and fanbase’s—new expectations.
Enter former teacher’s pet Carson Palmer, who was picketing against his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals by sitting out until he was traded. He had not played football the entire calendar year.
But Palmer had had success in Cincinnati with Jackson, who was then the team’s wide receivers coach. And it was Jackson who helped recruit Palmer to USC, when Jackson was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the Trojans (1998-2000).
The two have a long history working together, and it was that history Jackson believed would take the Raiders to the next level.
It was also that history that had Raider fans on the hopes. After all, there is a thin line between belief and hope. Belief is a feeling that is backed by one’s own self-confidence. Jackson firmly believed he was snaring the AFC West title out of the jaws of Oakland’s rivals by landing the semi-retired Palmer.
Hope is the feeling people hang their hats on when they’re just not quite sure about something.
Hope is the current sentiment among Raiders fans.
Oakland has sandwiched two two-game losing streaks around a three-game winning streak and now find themselves in a desperate situation—one game back of the Broncos with three games to play.
And Raider Nation is quick to blame Palmer’s sweaty throws to the opposition as a reason for Oakland’s sudden setback—and possible collapse.
And still, it could be worse.
Imagine if Jackson had not gone out and hand-picked Palmer off his porch. Imagine if Boller had started the past seven games. Imagine the horror.
Fortunately, the Raiders did acquire Palmer. Fortunately, he was able to fill in, like an informal substitute teacher. He didn’t teach us anything we didn’t already know, and he didn’t let all hell break loose. And though he may not have been the savior that many believed he’d be, his substitution during the past couple of months still offers hope for the Raiders faithful.
Indubitably, Palmer’s performance as the starter indicates he does not have a firm grip on the job for the remainder of the season. Thus, to be sure, Campbell should be the starter when he regains his health.
Palmer has done what he was supposed to do—or at least what he should have been brought in to do—not be Kyle Boller.
After Oakland lost 28-0 at the hands of Kansas City in Week 7, Palmer demonstrated his un-Boller-like ability and guided the Raiders to a 3-3 record over the past month-and-a-half.
Given Palmer’s generous layoff and acclimation to a new group of players, a 3-3 record is, well, not that bad. It’s obviously not great. And not what Jackson and the organization would have hoped for.
But let’s keep in mind—with Boller at the helm, it could have been worse.
Yes, Palmer’s handiwork has been rather unimpressive. His four-interception game against Green Bay was completely terrible. The game against the Miami Dolphins in which he completed less that 50 percent of his passes was unacceptable.
But Raiders fans should be relieved that Oakland is still in position to take the AFC West.
But only if Campbell reclaims his starting job. Otherwise, Raider Nation will have to cling to something other than belief. Unlike their Golden State Warriors neighbors, the motto for the rest of the season won’t be, “We Believe,” but rather, “We Hope.”
They’ll have to hope the Broncos lose. And hope the Raiders can win out.